DOG DAY AFTERNOON
Directed by SIDNEY LUMET Screenplay by FRANK PIERSON
Superficially, it is a typical story of New York life, maybe even a microcosm of the troubles besetting the city. That is to say. it begins in farce and ends in something akin to tragedy. A trio of amateur gunmen (quickly reduced to a very odd couple) ineptly, comically try to hold up a Brooklyn branch bank. At the finish, one of the befuddled but not entirely evil robbers (beautifully played by John Cazale) is dead, the other busted.
It is easy to see why this story, based on a real incident, would appeal to film makers trying to make a tough-minded comment on urban existence. A bond of affection grows, unbidden, unconsciously between the crooks and the hostages they must take when their plans for a quick getaway are foiled. The crooks don't want to kill, the hostages don't want to be killed, and so they are leagued against those forces of law-and-order whose job it is to keep a relentless pressure on the surrounded bank.
Al Pacino, as the "brains" of the operation, gives an electric performance, charged with a lunatic energy that expertly captures the weird blend of confidence and self-deprecation (if not hatred) that marks the paranoid syndrome.
He is so skillful one almost forgets that paranoia is, after all, a sickness.
But only for a while. For the film then makes explicit that his motive for the robbery is to get money to buy a sex-change operation for his homosexual lover. The moronic quality of his relations with his parents and his dull-witted wife is also explored, proving to be extraordinarily unattractive and beyond most people's own experience. One tries to be sympathetic, in the nothing-hu-man-is-alien-to-me manner. But the viewer leaves the theater with that most devastating of disclaimers: This has nothing to do with me.